Cranfield Pro-Vice-Chancellor Dame Helen Atkinson wins top Royal Academy of Engineering award

23 June 2022


Professor Dame Helen Atkinson DBE FREng is to receive one of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s most prestigious awards in recognition of her enormous contribution to the Academy’s work, particularly in STEM education & careers outreach. Dame Helen will receive the President’s Medal at the Academy Awards Dinner in London on Tuesday 12 July.

Dame Helen is currently Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the School of Aerospace, Transport Systems & Manufacturing at Cranfield University. She has been an exceptionally committed Fellow of the Academy since her election in 2007, serving variously as a Vice President, Trustee and as Chair of the Education & Skills Committee. In 2015, Professor Atkinson delivered the Academy’s first East Midlands Regional Lecture, demonstrating how the properties of different metal alloys can range from being tougher than steel to some that can be cut like butter.

Dame Helen has made a vital contribution to the success of This is Engineering, a digital & social media campaign run by the Academy to inspire more young people from all backgrounds to become engineers. As Chair of the campaign’s oversight group, she has steered This is Engineering to achieve unprecedented success for a STEM outreach programme. Since it started in 2018, the campaign films have been viewed over 57 million times by a gender balanced audience, and increased consideration of engineering among teenagers by up to 85%.

Dame Helen is also a leading role model and advocate for women in STEM. She was the first woman President of the UK Engineering Professors’ Council in its 50-year history and has been listed as a Woman of Outstanding Achievement in Science, Engineering & Technology, as one of the “Top 50 Influential Women in Engineering” and as a Women into Science and Engineering campaign Ambassador. She was made a Dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 for services to engineering and education.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering says: “Alongside her career as an internationally renowned researcher in materials engineering, Dame Helen Atkinson has also made highly significant personal contributions to academic leadership and engineering education, outreach and diversity & inclusion. Her input has been critical to the success of the pioneering This is Engineering campaign, resulting in measurable improvements in young people’s willingness to consider engineering careers, especially among under-represented groups including women and ethnic minorities. She is an inspirational engineer and leader.

Dame Helen says: “It is an absolute honour to receive the 2022 President’s Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineering. Engineering is so important to our lives every day – it is crucial to our economy and our quality of life, and there is such a huge variety of specialisms that make it exceptionally interesting. That’s why I am so passionate about engineering; it really is something that changes the world for the better.

The President’s Medal is awarded to an Academy Fellow who has contributed significantly to the organisation’s aims and work through their initiative in promoting excellence in engineering.

Annual Awards Dinner 2022. This year’s Royal Academy of Engineering Awards Dinner takes place in London on Tuesday 12 July. Along with the announcement of the winner of this year’s MacRobert Award, the event will also celebrate the winners of other awards and prizes including the Major Project Award, The Princess Royal Silver Medals, the President’s Medal, the Rooke Award and the RAEng Engineers Trust Young Engineer of the Year. The headline sponsor of this year’s Awards Dinner is BAE Systems, with gold sponsors, bp and Rolls-Royce.

Cranfield University: Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology & management. The most recent Research Excellence Framework results demonstrate Cranfield University’s excellence with 88% of research rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.

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